A Holiday from Holiday Movies: A Q&A with Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall
Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall, veteran Hollywood producer, director, and writer of film, television, and theater, stopped by Signature to talk about his happy days in Hollywood.

Signature: How did you get your first big break?

Garry Marshall: Comedian Joey Bishop gave my partner, Fred Freeman, and me a writing job on Jack Paar's "Tonight Show."

SIG: How did you almost kill Lucille Ball?

GM: My next writing partner, Jerry Belson, and I wrote her a script in which she wore roller skates. As part of the plot, we had her feet swell up so she couldn't get the roller skates off in time to attend a fancy party. She had to wear a ball gown over her roller skates. At the party, she lost her balance and crashed into a waiter. She was a little shaken up but continued on and loved the script.

SIG: What was your favorite television show that you produced?

GM: For sophisticated comedy, "The Odd Couple" and "Mork & Mindy"; for physical comedy, "Laverne & Shirley"; and for pure joy, "Happy Days."

SIG: What television show did you create that was underappreciated?

GM: "Evil Roy Slade" with John Austin and many other stars. Jerry Belson and I thought the show was a great satire. Other people didn't get our humor. We were trying to make an antiviolent statement, but some people found the show violent. However, Salvador Dali said he liked it. He mentioned it when he appeared on the "Tonight Show. "

SIG: When you first cast Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman," did you know she would become a big star?

GM: You never know, because it doesn't just take talent. To become a big star, it takes smart career choices, a special kind of beauty, and great talent. She turned out to have all three.

SIG: What was it like to direct Julie Andrews in "The Princess Diaries"?

GM: She is one of the loveliest people on the planet. But one of the interesting things about her is that she can swear like a truck driver -- mostly at herself; never at other people. She likes to swear at objects, like her queen crown in "The Princess Diaries 2." So listening to Julie Andrews swear at a crown is funny. She swears with perfect diction.

SIG: What movie star have you never directed who you would like to?

GM: I like Jodie Foster, Reese Witherspoon, and an up-and-coming actress named Lily Rabe.

SIG: What movie star have you worked with before who you would like to work with again?

GM: Everyone I ever worked with I would like to work with again. But if I had to pick just one, I would say Bette Midler. We had a great time on "Beaches."

SIG: What is a movie that you love that you didn't direct yourself?

GM: My sister's movie "A League of Their Own." I'm a big baseball fan, and I thought that was a great story. I was proud to be an actor in it even though I didn't get to say my favorite line, "There's no crying in baseball."

SIG: What is your next movie going to be?

GM: After "Valentine's Day" and "New Year's Eve," I'm taking a holiday from holiday movies. I might produce a television show instead of a movie.

In his new book, My Happy Days in Hollywood, Garry Marshall takes us on a journey from his early days writing for Dick Van Dyke; producing some of the most beloved sitcoms in television history, including "The Odd Couple," "Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley," and "Mork & Mindy"; to directing such classic motion pictures as "The Flamingo Kid," "Beaches," "Pretty Woman," and "The Princess Diaries."